When Bollywood actor Shilpa Shetty Kundra recently launched the holistic wellness app, Shilpa Shetty App – which features yoga and meditation programmes including daily nutrition charts – it was highly anticipated by fitness freaks all over India. Shilpa’s fitness journey started a decade ago when she initiated awareness towards health and fitness with her yoga DVDs with her philosophy ‘Swasth Raho Mast Raho’.
Browsing through the app, fitness enthusiasts will find that being ‘fit and healthy’ is not limited to just well-being and diet. One can find Shilpa sporting the choicest of relaxed wear and inspiring fashion fanatics as well. The actor has been the poster girl for fitness for long along with her contemporaries Kareena Kapoor Khan and Malaika Arora. They are embracing athleisure while doing yoga, in Pilates classes or while working out at the gym.
As Abdon Lepcha, Creative Director, Fila India puts it: “Celebrities, influencers and social media are displaying athleisure as their lifestyle which has prompted fans to adopt their lifestyle. This has ushered in an athleisure cult, with activewear being worn on runways, streets, home, offices, airports as well as gyms.”
India is rapidly converting into a sports and fitness conscious country which was not the case 5 to 10 years ago. The fact that India has started recognising and promoting sports other than cricket has given rise to sportsmen representing the country in international stages and becoming inspirations to the millions, who aspire to be like them, act like them, dress like them. Lately, the shift in consumer lifestyle towards sports and health have led to the birth of athleisure, where people want more flexibility in what they wear to gyms and to the streets. For India the adoption was fast due to a predominant youth population which is in tune with the latest developments in fashion owing to the Internet and digital connectivity.
“With the burst of social media, influencer driven styles and trends have picked pace. Being a millennial-driven trend, athleisure being one of them. It can be about casual dressing for a day out, airport looks for a comfortable travel, athleisure as a trend is spotted across influencers and India’s young generation looks out for convenience and comfort,” states Rahul Vira, CEO, Skechers South Asia.
“And there is nothing more important than comfort, and athleisure gives you clothing that’s comfortable, relaxed and stylish versatile dressing. This has led to the evolution of the concept of athleisure.”
Skechers had launched its apparel collection which has done really well in terms of generating revenue in the past 8 to 9 months. The brand is now planning a full-fledged launch of athleisure. “In India active lifestyle demands a whole new way of dressing.
In today’s era well-being is vital and Millennials are all about achievements and fulfilling passions and dreams, making every single day count. As sports, work and travel lines blur, the calling is about being agile, flexible and adaptable in both functionality and mindset. It’s the junction where fashion meets fitness,’ says Manjula Gandhi, Chief Product Officer, N1 Active.
“The second stage of development happened when this trend was taken up by fashion brands and they adopted athleisure staples for purely aesthetic reasons and ushering in athleisure as a fashion trend and not just a functional one,” explains Saurabh Singh, Head of Design Menswear, Being Human Clothing. “The rise in popularity of athleisure is due to the fact that it’s now not just a trend which is an off shoot of performance sportswear but also a fashion lifestyle which can be worn by anyone even if they are not into sports.”
Meanwhile, Abdon Lepcha asserts that athleisure served as antidote to traditional attire, the monarchy of denim and rules of workwear formals. “Comfort and easy to wear (anywhere) have been the main factors that has propelled this trend,” he says.
Dynamics: The Market & Consumers
The athleisure trend is primarily aimed at a youth clientele, but it is being increasingly observed that middle aged consumers – who are into health and wellness and enjoy both sports and fashion – are also purchasing smart sportswear garments. “Athleisure is all about causal, comfort and easy to wear and the best part about this trend is that there is no specific age group,” says Abdon Lepcha
“People don’t want to wear baggy sweatpants anymore and they are happy to invest good money in high-end striped joggers, crop tops, bombers, etc. Athleisure wear is versatile and super comfortable and that is why people are adapting to this trend at a high pace,” states Manjula Gandhi.
“India’s young generation wants convenience and in one outfit, Athleisure wear gives it all – convenience and style whatever the occasion or place,” says Rahul Vira.
And when it comes to consumption of fashion trends, Tier II and III market are no less.
As Manjula Gandhi puts it: “Fashion awareness and adoption is fast increasing in these interior markets with youth driving the demand for such trends. They are well connected with global fashion due to easy Internet access, hyper connectivity and presence on various social media platforms and aspire to follow their favourite celebrity icons from Bollywood or sports industry, all of whom are sporting this trend today. Since these Tier II and III markets constitute a large part of our consumer base, penetration of such trends to these sectors will surely give a huge impetus to the business.”
“Most sports athletes who have represented India on an international stage have been from Tier II or III cities. This has ignited a passion and enthusiasm among the people who aspire to be like them. They follow fashion through their sporting heroes, favourite movie stars or international celebrities through social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, etc., and want to look and dress like them. Audiences in Tier II or III cities want fashion trends at affordable prices. They want to wear brands while taking selfies. Runway fashion may not be directly accessible to them and hence they rely on sportswear brands like us in India to cater to their needs and demands,” explains Abdon Lepcha.
Innovation in Collections
The evolved consumers of today demand variety and at the same time look for innovative designs and new functionality. Hence, a focused approach is essential to capitalising on the athleisure market.
Skechers India promotes colours that are favoured for activewear products. Later this year, the brand is all set to introduce graphics and stripes as these are dominating trends.
Fila has always intertwined fashion and culture and uses its history and heritage to add to the nostalgic fashion quotient. With its recent collections, the brand has given athleisure look a retro feel from the 70s and 80s including inspired track jackets and chunky dad sneakers.
With a collection designed for active men and women to lead athleisure movement and aid this new way of being, N1 Active uses fabrics that are comfortable and can stretch for fl exible movement. The brand aims to create meaningful relevant products for Millennials with cottons with tech finishes and functional denim with excellent shape retention properties.
Being Human Clothing – which claims to be the pioneer in launching athleisure in India during its Autumn-Winter 2014/15 collection – focuses primarily on its denim and athleisure lines. For the brand, athleisure has always been seen from a fashion perspective rather than from comfort, utility or functionality point of view.
While, key products in athleisure include track pants, shorts, leggings, hoodies, t-shirts and sneakers, power leggings are favourites among women. They are functional, easy to wear and practically meeting the demands of an increasingly busy lifestyle, without compromising on style and aesthetics.
Until today leggings continue to rule the scenario purely due to its functionality and ease of pairing and coordinating with other apparel and looks, be it casual, street, formal or ethnic. For men too it is the relaxed yet trendy look of jogger jeans, having utilitarian looks, a cross between street and casual wear bordering sportswear due to the hybrid knit denim combining aesthetics of denim and comfort of knitted stretchable fabric, styled with elasticated/drawstring waistband, knee-darts and tapered cropped hems to give the look and feel of everyday luxury.
The Future is Athleisure
Athleisure is here to stay. The trend is a refreshing change from formal shirts and even casual denims that had been dominating the market for a long time now.
“Moving ahead, athleisure needs to again look at its roots of performance sportswear where all the innovations happened. One key point will be adapting to sustainability in a big way. Again, many big brands have already made a move in this direction, and with good results,” states Saurabh Singh.
Manjula Gandhi adds to this saying, “Performance properties, hybridised utilitarian looks that cross environments and off er multiple wearing options are becoming increasingly relevant for work to workout, airport to office and travel to street transitions, and for men and women equally. Young consumers are driving this new aesthetic within sports, street and casual markets. Brands are realising this and incorporating comfort and performance properties, creating looks for everyday luxury.”
“Trends are constantly changing, and people are instantly adapting to them as is the case with athleisure. The future of athleisure lies in the subtle fusion of comfort and style. The sole purpose of sportswear is to provide durability and performance. However, as times change people not only wear athleisure while they are working out, but also to work,” concludes Rahul Vira.
(With inputs from Gurbir Singh Gulati)